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Anthro 2ac Essay - Proving Human Antiquity

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Ayman Mabrouk

Professor Jun Sunseri

Anthro 2AC

17 September 2014

Proving Human Antiquity

        Before Charles Lyell’s The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man in 1863, the idea of humans existing in a prehistoric time was never speculated upon.  It was not until archaeologists started developing a systematic technique for performing excavations, paleontology advanced as a field, and geological concepts (such as stratigraphy) were implemented that society began to accept the idea of human antiquity.

        Before the existence of archaeology, antiquarians were senselessly looting and destroying sites with rich history, simply to acquire artifacts for their own personal use. Fortunately, researchers such as Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsae, now regarded as the first archaeologist, came along and began to study artifacts leading to the emergence of archaeology as a field of study. Researchers like Worsae studied artifacts not for the sake of the object itself, but to learn and understand the people and culture behind it, giving birth to what we now call archaeology (Kelly 2011, 7).  As the study of archaeology grew, a systematic technique for gathering information began to develop. Specialized methods for excavating, classifying, and dating artifacts and sites became established, and in turn, they helped uncover the truth of human antiquity.  When Hugh Falconer and William Pengelly entered Brixham Cave, they had a detailed plan of what and how they were going to excavate the site, as well as how they were going to classify and date their findings (Norman). The systematic technique that they used to gather information on artifacts found in the cave was crucial to the acceptance of human antiquity.

        Although a separate but similar field of study, progress in paleontology can be credited for proving human existence in pre-historic times. The idea that fossils are remnants of organisms and the acceptance that some of these organisms are extinct are cornerstones in settling the question of human antiquity. Recognizing that there were once species that are no longer around provided evidence that the Earth was indeed older than believed. This thought would later on be crucial when Falconer and Pengelly were classifying and dating their Brixham Cave findings.

        Advances in geology also contributed to answering the question of human antiquity. The idea that Earthly processes are regular and predictable and that humans are subject to them helped explain how objects found in excavations came to be in their present form (Sunseri). The concept of stratigraphy was critical in dating the findings as well as comparing their relative ages to each other. Examining the layer of sediment that an artifact originated from helped archeologists classify them in certain time periods and relate them to objects all around the world. This was fundamental in the excavation of Brixham Cave, because when fossilized bones of extinct species native to the ice-age era were found in the same layer as human-made stone artifacts, it became evident that humans were around well before when they were previously thought to be. This was key to the idea of human antiquity as there was now concrete evidence of human existence in pre-historic times.



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